I grew up in what I guess you would call a broken home. My parents weren’t together but I was close to both of them. My mom was a single mom of four kids and she struggled, we moved around a lot but she is passionate and feisty and always ready to do battle for her kids. I was really close to my dad. He was a chef and he cooked a lot with me and instilled that love for food and cooking within me. Those were some of my best memories.
But my dad was also using cocaine. When I was 14, he was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. He died when I was 19 and about that time is when I got hooked on meth.
When I was 24 is when I met Carabelle’s dad. When we would get into a spat, he would kick me out. And one of the times, I was wondering the streets and got picked up on a prior warrant. When I was in jail, I took a pregnancy test and found out that I was pregnant. When I got out, I went back to the hotel where he was staying and told him about the baby. He was drunk and half asleep and he said “Dammit.”
My daughter Carabelle was born with meth in her system. She got taken from my but my mom got guardianship. After Carabelle was born, I knew that something had to change so I went back to technical school for culinary arts and it was like I was back in the kitchen with my dad again. I won awards at state and national levels and student of the year but I was still addicted to meth and I was still addicted to Carabelle’s dad.
So I decided to go to 12 and 12. I called them and they set an appointment for January 19 but little did I know that January 10 is when my whole world would fall apart.
I woke up in Carabelle’s room and it was so hot, like somebody had stuck me in an oven. I heard my brother yelling my name and when I looked at the door, there was a wisp of flame going from the floor to the ceiling, so I looked over at the window and I busted out the window. That’s when my brother came around the house and he asked me, “Where’s Carabelle?”
I go back into the house to try to save her. My heart is in my stomach and as I’m going down the hallway, I just collapse. When I wake up I’m in the hospital with tubes down my throat. I’m rocking my arms to try to ask the nurse where my baby is and the nurse looks at me and says, “You don’t remember? Your baby died in that fire.”
After that, I hit the streets hard, not caring what happened to me, not caring if I died. I was heavily drug addicted. I was homeless. Eventually sitting on a hotel bed, I looked up at the screen and saw my face on the news. I was wanted for child neglect.
When I was in jail, God got ahold of me. He offered me redemption from my pain, from my sadness, and from my grief.
I met Rhonda while sitting in a Women in Transition class through Stand in the Gap in Tulsa County Jail. She actually listened to me. She was the first person to hear my side of the story and she made me feel like I was a mother that lost a child and not a monster.
RHONDA: When I first met Maria, she looked a lot like her mug shot. She was unresponsive, without emotion, and empty. Today when I look at Maria, wow, she is a bright light shining.
The first thing that Rhonda taught in the Women in Transition class was boundaries and me, not having any idea about boundaries, would just sit and listen and try to learn. Rhonda formed a Stand in the Gap family around me. They prayed for me. They stood in intercession for me. They cried with me. They were who I could talk to and be honest with. They changed me.
A big think the enemy tried to do in my life was make me feel isolated and make me feel like I was the only one. But my Stand in the Gap team helped change that. They made me feel like I was part of something. They weren’t standing on top and pulling me up, we were all standing together.
In my Stand in the Gap family, there was a woman who had lost a child like me, who was diagnosed with cancer, women who struggled with addiction. Even Rhonda, who I look up to so much, had her own struggles. They helped show me how to face the bad stuff with spiritual strength.
Today I have a partner who is my pillar and we have a beautiful daughter together. I have a catering company called Carabelle’s Eats and Treats and a non-profit that helps fire victims. I am a volunteer on another Stand in the Gap family for a young lady who has faced incarceration and addiction. I feel really blessed to be redeemed in this way.
Learn more about Stand in the Gap's Women in Transition
Participate in the program that helped change Maria’s life.